As the nation’s capitol, D.C. welcomes millions of visitors each year. Thanks to the city’s assortment of international residents with diverse taste, there are countless options to satisfy hunger. It would take weeks of nonstop eating just to scratch the surface of everything available so for those with limited time, picking just a few restaurants might seem like an overwhelming task. To make things less daunting, the 24-hour itinerary below will help both visitors and locals alike by highlighting some of the most essential spots in town.
8 a.m. — District Doughnut
Jumpstart the day with a java jolt and sugar fix at one of D.C.’s hottest neighborhoods, Southwest’s year-old Wharf project. There, D.C.’s resident doughnut fixture District Doughnut just opened its fourth area location inside a nautical jewel box of a space (5 Market Square SW). Starting at 7 a.m. daily, find a concise lineup of doughnuts ($2.50 to $3.50) to go alongside coffee and cold brew from local roaster Compass Coffee ($2.25 to $3.75) at the waterfront turquoise-colored shop, which features outdoor seating. Summer selections were just swapped out for fall flavors like Pumpkin Glazed and Maple Butter Pecan for the fall, while best sellers like Brown Butter and Salted Dulce de Leche stick around all year.
12 p.m. — Willard InterContinental
It’s never been a juicier time to eavesdrop on politically-charged conversations (for better or worse) and one prime spot to overhear chatter is D.C.’s historic Willard hotel. The lobby’s wood-lined Round Robin Bar, which dates back to the days of Abraham Lincoln’s administration, consistently draws a stylish cross section of D.C. movers and shakers — many of whom don’t hesitate to start the party upon its opening at noon. Ask longtime bartender Jim Hewes for a frosty mint julep — first introduced to the hotel by Kentucky statesman Henry Clay in the 1800s. Don’t feel like day drinking just yet? Have a French-themed bite at its newly remodeled Café du Parc, now under the watch of newly hired executive chef Luca De Marchis.
1 p.m. — Lucky Buns
Reset the day from formal to informal with a quick carnivorous lunch at budding burger chain Lucky Buns, which turns one this fall in Adams Morgan (2000 18th Street NW). Pop-up dining vet Alex McCoy, who’s already working on opening location No 2 in D.C., also wants to plant fast-casual versions of his colorful destination in New York City and Philadelphia. The funky burger palace, featuring lighting fixtures and wall art from McCoy’s extensive travels to Thailand and beyond, slings $10 burgers also inspired by overseas cultures. They swing from tame (grilled tandoori chicken with gouda and house sauce) to super fiery: the Hot Tiger Bun, for instance, features a spicy fried chicken thigh and Sichuan peppercorn spice paste.
3 p.m. — The Line
A short walk north is Adams Morgan’s long awaited Line hotel, which gave D.C. a much-needed dose of hip hotel culture when it opened last December (1770 Euclid Street NW). Check out its debut, all-day eatery, the adventurous Brothers and Sisters, where some of local restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang’s hit dishes like knife cut noodles have stuck around since day one. Need a late afternoon caffeine fix? Head to James Beard Foundation Award-winning restaurateur Spike Gjerde’s all-day coffee shop and bakery, the Cup We All Race 4. Sip and peek in on a food-related podcast likely being recorded by audio engineer and DJ Jack Inslee, founder of Full Service Radio. Ready for a cocktail? Go to Rake’s Bar, the drinking den helmed by citrus-eschewing Woodberry Kitchen beverage guru Corey Polyoka (just don’t ask for tequila — they strictly only serve local ingredients). That’s open at 5 p.m.
6 p.m. — Union Market
If it’s not a Monday (when the market is closed), a stop at D.C.’s cavernous Northeast food hall is a must. The food lovers’ mecca, with 50-plus food stalls, is packed with Indian dosas, Korean tacos, and barbecue options. The newest arrival is an extension of Purcellville, Va.’s Parisian crêperie and cafe, which showcases chef Stefano Frigerio’s French menu of croque monsieur sandwiches, croissants, quiches, sweet and savory crêpes. The Union Market area also houses two Michelin-recognized eateries: Bib Gourmand honoree Bidwell (inside the market) and nearby upscale Italian spot Masseria, which just maintained its star rating for 2019. The newest blockbuster arrival in the buzzing dining hub is James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr’s St. Anselm tavern.
7 p.m. — Chiko
Pop down to Barracks Row’s Chiko for innovative, yet affordable, takes on Chinese and Korean cooking. Patrons who saddle up to the experimental dinner spot’s exclusive kitchen counter encounter an insanely cheap tasting menu ($50 per person). Engaging with down-to-earth co-founders Danny Lee and Scott Drewno is easy, and chances are they might even crack a Modelo while chatting up patrons. The balance of the small rectangular-shaped restaurant is reserved for a la carte eating atop communal tables, available on a first come, first served basis. The expansion-minded brand, recognized as a James Beard Award semifinalist this year, is also opening in Dupont Circle and another location across the country in San Diego this year.
9 p.m. — Off the Record
The red velvet-wrapped haunt in the underbelly of the Hay-Adams hotel is a classic good call for a night cap right across from the White House. Meet a new neighbor while planting a tangy rickey — D.C.’s signature cocktail — atop one of many satirical political coasters, like a caricature of Sarah Huckabee Sanders flanked by blue Twitter logos. Feel free to pop one — or a few — in your pocket as a souvenir (the accommodating bartenders don’t mind).